Friday, November 26, 2021

A Day of Normalcy

When you get down to it, normalcy feels pretty darned good.  

We enjoyed what has become our traditional Thanksgiving celebration at my brother's house in south Florida.  There and back combine into five hours of driving, but it's mostly the Florida Turnpike and I-95 so it's easier than driving in stop and go traffic.  This was the smallest gathering I can remember; there were just eight of us.  We spent from about 12:30 till about 7:30 PM with my extended family.  It's just good to spend time with family.  

Today was our Thanksgiving here with just us.  I smoked a turkey using a method I found on Serious Eats; a combination of spatchcocking the turkey together with a dry brine and then smoking in my Weber kettle grill.  It gives such a nice pink smoke ring in the meat that you just don't get with the electric smokers.  I've done this basic recipe a few times and it does produce a good turkey.  I have fooled around with what I do a bit but I never know if the main difference is what I've done or how the turkeys are being raised.  

Since it's Black Friday (for another few hours), I feel like I do at least one post about the absurdity of this new national "holiday" every year.  I'm a bit on the curmudgeonly side on this whole thing.  

I don't know about you, but I'm sure I started seeing black Friday ads in July.  For sure, I must have been getting 50 to 75 emails a day with black Friday in the subject for the last month.  When we have a Black Friday sale in every month, what's so special about it anymore?  In the usual sense of a special day that kicks off the Christmas shopping season.  Add to that the fear of product shortages causing people to start doing their Christmas shopping early, and I don't even know if Black Friday is today or if it was some weeks ago.  

Once there started to be a perception that good deals came on Black Friday, it was only a matter of time until it became just another way of saying “BIG SALE!”  But shoppers like to think they're getting big deals, and there are stores that put one or two items on a massive discount to get some people to line up the night before.  Maybe they can get some buzz on the news.  

It always pays to know what going prices are.  I've heard that generally speaking, the best time for deals isn't today, it's closer to Christmas; and especially the last couple of days before Christmas.  You could get better prices than this week, but it's a gamble.  You're betting that the stores will be stuck with something you want and would rather discount it than not sell it.  If they sell out first you lose.  If they don't sell out but still won't or can't cut the price, again you lose.  That said, it has worked out for me in the past.  It's sort of like calling a bluff in poker. 

Retail is a rough way to make a living. I'm sure you've heard how airline reservation systems base the seat price on the apparent interest in a flight.  If you go back and check on the price of that seat every week, the system says there must be more demand for that flight and raises the price.  What if stores could measure real time demand and adjust the price.  Say you're looking for a new tool or other gadget; what if they see someone checking the web site regularly and interpret that as several people interested in that item and raised its price?  Would you be upset or offended?  What if they dropped the price to see at what level you can't resist pushing the Glistening, Candy-like, "BUY IT" button?  I don't have any hard evidence that anyone does that, but it seems trivial for an online store to track interest in something.  The biggest risk is scaring away customers.

To me the Golden Rule is the willing seller/willing buyer.  My inner engineer drives me to optimize things, but if people are happy with what they paid, regardless of whether or not it really is "the best price of the year", and the seller is happy with the price they got for it, that's definition of a fair price.  I'm sure not gonna poop in anyone's corn flakes by telling them they didn't get the best price.


  1. I avoid retail like the plague this entire weekend, and won't be at anything like a mall parking lot until mid-January, because the stupidity factor is in orbital altitude, and most folks don't have any surplus of IQ points on a normal day.

    So if their goal was to get me to spend, they're throwing water on that fire with a water monitor.

    If they would instead work on stocking quality products at reasonable prices in sustainable quantities 24/7/365, they'd have a loyal customer for life.

    In Hollywood, when someone calls, and you tell them "No" twice, don't expect a third call.
    In retail, when I look for something you're supposed to stock, and that spot on the shelf is empty twice, you just got your competitor a new customer. And I 'm not going back to you unless and until he has the same lackadaisical attitude towards stocking items you do.

    I get that there's a supply crunch at the moment, but this phenomenon has been going on for decades with some stores. Once is happenstance, twice is coincidence, but three times is your store manager doesn't GAF.

  2. amazon already does that. and the fewer in stock the higher the price goes. i put an item i want in my cart and walk away. sometimes it goes up, trying to get a panic buy. if i wait usually it goes back down cheaper than the start. i have accidentally induced what you talk about by going back n forth on an item, until it suddenly went up by 10 dollars. i pretty much quit amazon then, unless i can't find what i need anywhere else.

    1. That's an interesting observation. I haven't done that, but I've gone back and forth a few times looking for the same things. I've seen that the way I search for it can matter. Can't think of an example right now (need more coffee!) but I've had one price show up searching in a particular department and a different price show up at the top-level search.

  3. I missed all of this, having spent Thanksgiving at anchor with shipmates at the foot of the Statue Of Liberty, in a perfect black hole of cell phone reception. It's odd, being able to see cars in Brooklyn, Staten Island AND Manhattan with the naked eye, and having a 'no signal' on one's cell phone. I called my wife on the sat phone, so it probably cost me $20 to hear all about the good time I was missing.
    The turkey recipe sounds awesome. We had a traditional southern-style Thanksgiving meal (deep fried turkey, collards, etc) but with with Brazilian appetizers (my wife's recipe), mashed potatoes from the resident Irishman (me) and dessert was a bunch of Cuban pastries and coffee from the captain who swam over to Miami as a kid on an inflatable unicorn. No masks, no politics or religion at the table (other than saying grace together).

    I just bought my Christmas ticket home to S. FL from NY. I dithered over the insane price. Wonder if I jacked it up myself by going back and forth over it?

    1. That sounds like a very American thanksgiving. Southern deep fried turkey with Brazilian appetizers? Very American.

      I grew up in Miami and had friends who had come across on anything that could float. Plus one friend's family who got out before Castro took over and confiscated everything. Dad was an architect.

  4. My mother has been a big Black Friday deal buyer. I avoid it like the plague. I have noticed a couple of LCD flat screen TV's she bought were models that were only available for Black Friday. They came with a 2 year warranty and both died within months of the warranty running out.

  5. And, that is a major argument for cookies, or some sort of identifying tag for those just looking for a bargain. I suspect that some sort of system will eventually balance people's desire for privacy and their lust for a bargain.
    I did happen to be out on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. My husband (a dedicated bargain hunter) was in town, and decided to take a look at some TVs.
    He picked Target, just because my daughter wanted to pick up a few things there.
    He did find a killer price on a 43" model flatscreen. As it was Roku-ready, and only $297, I said yes.
    It's a hell of a TV, well worth the price.
    Now, these were TVs that had been brought in for Black Friday; however, the manager Okayed our purchase at the BF price.
    Win-win - we got the TV at the BF price, and didn't have to mess with the crowds.